Senchina shares district plans after Wells

After a number of dramatic reversals, Superintendent Mike Wells resigned at a board meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 27. The board voted 5-2 in favor of accepting his resignation.

About 100 people attended the meeting, including a number that help signs supporting Wells. A number of them stood to clap well he entered the meeting.

The resignation was accepted after it was clear that the board was prepared to recommend that he not be rehired for next year after falling short of the board’s expectations in recent performance reviews. These reviews was held in closed sessions, and the board has stressed that it will keep the details private.

Though these details will never be known, many are still wondering what will remain of the district’s recent innovative initiatives now that Wells will no longer he leading the district next.

Board President Deon Senchina explained the district’s plans in a recent interview:

Now that Mike Wells is resigning, how will this affect the changes he has been pushing for?  Are plans for a new high school/high school renovation still going to be carried out? (Bilingual education, academies, etc?)

Mr. Wells was hired to achieve the district’s initiatives, like the high school and K-6 foreign language goals.  No one person can implement a major goal in a district our size.  Administrators and teachers will continue their work until each goal is reached.  The next superintendent will also work on these goals just as Mr. Wells has.

When will the school board start searching for a new superintendent? How long will the process take?

The board will begin the search process for a new superintendent very soon.  The search will include the input and participation of many different stakeholder groups.   An end date has not yet been established.

What is in store for the rest of the school year with Mike Wells?

Mr. Wells’ contract continues through June 30.  Last Wednesday he said “I will finish the year out with a professional attitude, and continue to work hard to move the district forward.”

Has the social media input from community members affected school board decisions?

When the possibility of Mr. Wells leaving became public Monday, board members received messages via emails, phone calls and social media.  As a board we want to hear from stakeholders and their input is carefully considered.

One frequently asked question was why the board held “secret” meetings.  Several people believe they have a right to know the reasons for our action.  I’d like to answer that question from three different perspectives.

1) From a personal side, would you want your boss at work to conduct your annual performance review while co-workers and customers listened?

2) Iowa code requires the board to have all meetings open to the public except in a few cases.  The superintendent’s evaluation meeting is closed only if the superintendent asks that the meeting be closed.  Mr. Wells asked to have the first five sessions closed and then asked the meeting last Wednesday to be open.

3) Mr. Wells contract is a personnel issue and the board has an ethical and legal responsibility to keep the reasons for the board’s final decision confidential.

There’s a reaction seen from the community that the school board doesn’t want change, what changes does the school board actually want to see happen within the next few years?

Changes in the district are not often seen or known because they aren’t something “visible” like new buildings.  There has been a tremendous amount of change in the last six years.  Many of them focus on our biggest shift: a change in focus to student learning experiences instead of teaching methods.  Board supported changes in the last six years:

  • Professional Learning Communities (PLCs)
  • Major renovations at Holmes & Peet Junior High Schools
  • Leader in Me
  • Iowa Core Curriculum (ICC)
  • Instructional Decision Making (IDM)
  • Authentic Intellectual Work (AIW)
  • Major additions at Southdale & Hansen increasing to 4 section schools
  • Physical Education Development (PEP grant)
  • School Administration Manager (SAM)
  • Daily reading in all subject areas K-12
  • STEM–Science, Tech, Engineering & Math

Mr. Wells was hired to advance several planned and in process goals including the decision to build or renovate the high school, improve student use of technology, and K-6 foreign language.

Future goals include 1) possibly building a seventh elementary school, 2) an International Baccalaureate Program (IP) and 3) additional collaborations with Hawkeye and UNI to add even more technical and college level courses to our high school offerings.

“Administrators and teachers will continue their work until each goal is reached.  The next superintendent will also work on these goals just as Mr. Wells has.” -Deon Senchina, school board president

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